Shock Wave Generator for Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program: More Than a Feasibility Study

May 7, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


David Albright and Olli Heinonen


Institute for Science and International Security
  • The Iranian Nuclear Archive reveals that under its early 2000s nuclear weapons program known as the “Amad Plan,” Iran was developing and manufacturing a key nuclear weapon subcomponent called a “shock wave generator.” The shock wave generator is a multi-point initiation (MPI) system, which has the purpose of uniformly initiating a spherical shell of high explosives, or the “main charge,” which in turn compresses the nuclear core made from weapon-grade uranium to achieve a supercritical mass for a nuclear explosion. Iran’s Nuclear Archive, a significant portion of which Israel seized in January 2018, is a curated set of highly sensitive nuclear weapons information detailing the Amad program’s effort to develop and manufacture five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site for possible use.
  • The development of the shock wave generator, also known as distributor, contributed importantly to Iran’s miniaturization of a nuclear weapons design.
  • A key associated Amad Plan facility was near the village of Sanjarian, called the “Sanjarian facility.” It made high explosive parts for the shock wave generator and conducted a range of tests for its development. In addition, under the Amad Plan, it was a center for the testing of exploding bridgewires (EBWs), which were necessary for the shock wave generator. Its nuclear weapon-related activities after the Amad Plan remain to be determined.


Read the full report at the Institute for Science and International Security.